Chicago Bears

Packers' Prez: We want to be at bargaining table

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Packers' Prez: We want to be at bargaining table

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
11:55 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

It may be hard for some Bears fans to accept but a Green Bay figure has a lot to add to the current stalled state of affairs between NFL owners and players.

Few in the business of football compare to Mark Murphy for insights and perspectives. The president of the Green Bay Packers is a former Pro Bowl safety with a background in law and I was fortunate to get to know Mark during his time heading up athletics at Northwestern, and he is the goods.

So I was particularly interested in his weighing in with Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live on Tuesday, because this is a true bright bulb with ideas and an understanding of both sides, as a former player involved in negotiations and now as a member of the NFL Management Council.

We want to get back to the bargaining table, Mark said unequivocally. We liked the mediation process.

At this point any olive branch is solid gold, and someone like Mark was offering some if in no other way than just the lack of inflammatory rhetoric.

Were never going to get closer to an agreement by going back and forth at each other publicly, he said.

What was a tad surprising was Marks observation that, for all the sniping, theres a level of respect between the two sides that was not there in the 80s. Thats good to know, although its tough to see it sometimes.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus followed Mark and shared some of the mounting angst that is afflicting players, coaches, organizations, just about everyone.

This is really so bad for our game, Drew said. But I dont believe in the blame game. I dont believe in pointing fingers.

He is among those advocating players not sit around, literally, until something gets worked out. These guys need to stay in shape because its their livelihood, Drew said. Im advising guys to work out.. But Im not advising organized team activities because there could be injuries and those are not covered right now.

Like Murphy, the point was not to heap abuse on the other side. As far as NFL owners, theyre not the enemy, Drew said. Theyre our partners.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bears: Kyle Long looks set for 2017 debut while Josh Sitton doubtful for Week 3

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USA TODAY

Bears: Kyle Long looks set for 2017 debut while Josh Sitton doubtful for Week 3

Kyle Long was a full participant in back-to-back practices Thursday and Friday, and wasn't listed on the team's injury report Friday, clearing the path for the three-time Pro Bowler to make his 2017 debut Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s been a lengthy, grueling process for Long to get to this point, with significant muscle atrophy in his ankle and a setback during training camp further delaying his return to the field. 

Where Long plays in his 2017 debut will be interesting to watch. The Bears have planned on moving him from right guard to left guard, though with Josh Sitton doubtful with a rib injury, Long — who didn’t get many full-team reps at left guard during training camp anyway — could start on the right side Sunday. 

Part of the equation, too, is that Cody Whitehair has more experience with the Bears at left guard, where he played until Sitton was signed before the beginning of the 2016 season. If Tom Compton (hip, questionable?) can’t play on Sunday, Whitehair presumably will move to guard while Hroniss Grasu will start at center. Whitehair did play both left and right guard in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to the injuries to Sitton and Compton. 

No matter where Long starts, though, his return will provide a boost to an offensive line that’s been flooded with extra defenders against the run so far this year. The Steelers would be smart to take the same stack-the-box approach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did, which led to Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen being limited to 20 yards on 16 carries. 

Fox said Long won't be on a concrete snap count, but the Bears will evaluate him throughout the game. But even if Long isn’t 100 percent, or doesn’t play 100 percent of the snaps, he can be a difference-maker for an offense that’s needed difference-makers in 2017. 

“I mean, the expectations are where they left off when I left. I always have high expectations,” Long said. “If you play the game you change the game. If you’re out there doing anything other than that then you’re just witnessing it, you’re watching. It’s not a spectator sport.”

How the Bears coached up Tarik Cohen after his punt return mistake in Tampa

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USA TODAY

How the Bears coached up Tarik Cohen after his punt return mistake in Tampa

It’s not that Bears special teams coach Jeff Rodgers never wants Tarik Cohen to try to pick up another punt that’s bouncing deep into Bears territory. It’s just that he doesn’t want the explosive rookie to try to pick up the ball when he’s surrounded by multiple defenders. 

That’s what Cohen did on Sunday, leading to a prompt fumble recovered by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which needed only one play to get in the end zone after the fourth-round pick’s gaffe. The challenge for Rodgers then is coaching up Cohen to retain his aggressiveness, but not make the same mistake twice. 

“We’re not down on the kid,” Rodgers said. “He’s trying to make an aggressive play and that’s always going to be in his nature. That’s what you like about the kid. 

“… I think you’ve just got to coach him as time goes on and say, ‘hey, the reason why you wouldn’t do something like that in this situation is because of this,’ or ‘this was a good play because of that.’ It’s so hard as a coach to prepare a player for every possible scenario, so you’re trying to give him general guidelines and rules to follow in the different situations he finds himself in.”

Cohen said after Sunday’s game he wanted to keep the ball from bleeding further toward the Bears’ goal line. He owned his mistake and made no excuses for it, saying if he faces that situation again he won’t try to grab the ball. 

But Rodgers pointed out a pair of punt return touchdowns that began with a player picking up a bouncing ball deep in their own territory: This from Tavon Austin and this Trindon Holliday score. Cohen has the skill to make a similar play, so Rodgers doesn’t want him avoiding every single bouncing ball from here on out. 

He just wants Cohen to be smarter when confronted with a bouncing ball and a handful of defenders surrounding him. 

“You’re not trying to dwell on the negative and keep reminding him that he made a mistake on the field,” Rodgers said. “You’re trying to coach him as best we can before those things happen and say, ‘hey, if you ever get in this situation...’ But a lot of that is learning experience. Unfortunately that one didn’t work out but hopefully next time, based on field position, based on proximity of opponent players, he’ll make a different decision.